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TECHNICAL BOOK 3:

DOMESTIC & COMMERCIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR OIL STORAGE & SUPPLY EQUIPMENT

1.12 Decommissioning Oil Storage Tanks


1.12.1 Decommissioning Oil Storage Tanks
The improper removal of an oil storage tank can result in a serious accident and/or pollution
incident. Therefore, it is necessary to consider all potential safety and environmental hazards
and subsequently, adopt appropriate precautionary measures.
The following guidelines refer to environmental legislation that must followed in England,
Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Where recommendations are not legal requirements,
the word should is used.

Scope
This guidance applies to above ground fixed steel and polyethylene oil storage tanks up to
6000 litres capacity that previously contained Class C2 kerosene, D gas oil to BS 2869 or
bio liquid/mineral oil blends.

Initial Planning / Risk Assessment


The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations stipulate that a suitable and
sufficient risk assessment must be completed to decide what measures need to be taken to
ensure the safety of personnel is not put at risk. This means identifying the hazards present,
assessing the risk and determining what precautions to take, including the provision of
suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).
Examples of the types of work where a prior risk assessment is likely to be necessary
include, but are not limited to: isolation of the tank; removal of residual liquids from the tank;
cleaning and purging; entering confined spaces; and, hot works.
For further information, the HSE has published a leaflet Five steps to risk assessment (see
extract below), which is available from the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk.

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Personal Protective Equipment


It is very difficult to design out the risk of contact with oil, otherwise known as a hazardous
substance, while working with an oil installation. This means some basic forms of protective
clothing must be worn at all times. As a minimum these will include, but are not limited to:

Cotton overalls Nylon should never be worn;


PVC gloves;
Safety footwear.

All clothing worn for protective purposes must be robust and in good condition. Overalls
which have absorbed small quantities of oil must be washed and those which have been
heavily contaminated should be washed, dry-cleaned, laundered and starched to stiffen the
fabric.
Other types of PPE likely to be required are, but not limited to:

Eye protection

Safety goggles/glasses must be worn where there is any foreseeable risk of injury to the
eyes. Types of hazard include, flying particles, oil vapours, splashes from chemicals, sparks
and gases, all of which can be induced when removing oil residues, cleaning and purging a
tank and carrying out any cutting/hot work.

Ear protection

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations has designated an exposure level of 87dB as the
point where ear protection must be worn by all personnel exposed to such noise levels.
Correctly worn ear defenders are the most suitable form of ear protection.
Power tools used to cut up a tank and equipment used to clean and purge a tank are likely to
generate sufficient noise levels, bringing about the need to wear ear protection.

Head protection

A suitable safety helmet/hard hat must be worn where there is any foreseeable risk of injury
to the head. Work on construction sites and tasks which involve entry into a confined space
and the dismantling of a tank are likely to require the provision of suitable head protection.

Respiratory protection

When working within a confined space, such as inside of an oil storage tank or area where
oil vapours are likely to accumulate, full breathing apparatus with clean oxygenated air from
a source independent of the immediate atmosphere must be worn. It is important that the
breathing apparatus used is suitably tested and certified for use and that all technicians have
valid breathing apparatus training certificates.
Face masks and other respirators which are designed to remove impurities from the air are
not acceptable under these conditions.
Further information on PPE can be found in OFTEC Technical Book 1.

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Flammable gas detector to BS EN 60079-29-2

This device detects the presence of flammable vapours and gases in atmosphere and
provides a warning when concentrations are approaching an explosive range (see example
below). A flammable gas detector must be used during work which involves purging to certify
a tank as being gas-free. It is also necessary to continuously monitor the volatility of the
atmosphere within a tank during tasks that involve entry inside a tank and hot work. All
flammable gas detectors must be tested and certified suitable for use by a UKAS accredited
test house every 6 months.

Technicians using a flammable gas detector must receive prior training on the correct
operation of the device. It is equally important to understand the limitations of the device as
most will not detect solid matter or non-volatile liquids. A thorough understanding of such
limitations is essential to avoid false readings. There is guidance in the HSE publication The
selection and use of flammable gas detectors, which is available from the HSE website,
www.hse.gov.uk.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH)
These regulations apply to hazardous substances and affect technicians who work with
kerosene, gas oil or bio liquid/mineral oil blends. They require employers to assess the risks
arising from hazardous substances to make sure such substances are worked with safely.
Information on COSHH regulations can be found in OFTEC Technical Book 1.

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Permit-to-work
A permit-to-work system is a formal check which is used to ensure that all the elements of a
safe system of work are in place prior to undertaking any work which is categorised high risk,
as identified by prior risk assessments.
Before any work forms part of a work permit, a method statement must be supplied, detailing
how work will be carried out in a manner that is safe.
Types of work which require a work permit include, but arent limited to:

Entering confined spaces;


Hot works.

A work permit must specify the type of work that will be done and by who, including the
necessary safety measures that are needed having considered foreseeable hazards.
Guidance on permit-to-work systems, including the essential features of a permit-to-work
form, should be taken from the HSE publication Permit-to-work systems (see extract
below), which is available from the HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk.

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Working in confined spaces


Oil storage tanks are considered to be a confined space and entering a tank to perform work
should be avoided where possible. This may bring about the need to identify alternative
methods of carrying out tasks so that entry is not necessary. For example, cleaning can
often be achieved from outside of a tank using appropriate long reach equipment and tools,
or remote cameras can be used for internal inspection of a tank.
If entering a tank is unavoidable, guidance should be taken from the HSE publication Safe
work in confined spaces, which is available from the HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk.

Isolation / Removal of Residues


Preparation
Before work on an oil storage tank can begin, technicians should be adequately prepared to
deal with an oil leak or spill. An oil spill kit should be readily available nearby and all
technicians working on the tank should know how to use its contents. Typical spill kits
contain sorbent materials, drain blockers and leak sealing putty, which can reduce the
chance of a leak or spill causing pollution (see example below).

Further guidance on how to deal with oil spills can be found in Pollution Prevention Guidance
note Dealing with spills: PPG 22, which is available from:

Environment Agency - www.environment-agency.gov.uk


NIEA - www.doeni.gov.uk
SEPA - www.sepa.org.uk

Tanks should be checked for the grade and volume of oil held. The person responsible for
ordering the fuel should have this information available. It is important to establish if the tank
was previously used to hold any different classes of fuel such as heavy fuel oils, in which
case additional safety and environmental measures may need to be taken.

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Containers which are to be used to store oil residues must be checked for sound condition to
make sure there are no splits or unsealed openings where oil can escape. This is a legal
requirement in Scotland under the Oil Storage Regulations. The container should be able to
contain the oil residues without damage and consideration should be given to the potential
weight of the container when full to avoid personal injury being caused if it will need to be
moved. Containers with a capacity above 200 litres used in England and Northern Ireland, or
200 litres or more in Scotland, will be subject to Oil Storage Regulations and must be
provided with secondary containment.
Isolation
Prior to commencing work on an oil storage tank, the tank should be isolated from any
downstream equipment.
Removal of residues
Liquids should be transferred into suitable containers using appropriate equipment such as:

Hand pumps

These are manually operated suction pumps which are ideal for extracting small quantities of
oil. Some units have an integral containment facility.

Changeover pumps

Less time consuming than hand pumps, these are electrically driven suction pumps capable
of transferring oil from one tank to another, or into suitable containers ready for
transportation.

Vacuum tankers

Similar to an oil delivery vehicle, vacuum tankers can be considered where large volumes of
oil need to be extracted. Some waste management companies offer a service that allow a
quantity of oil to be uplifted and held on board for immediate transportation.
Caution should be exercised when using changeover pumps or vacuum tankers to avoid
high transfer rates and splashing, both of which could generate static electricity.
Residues at the bottom of a tank can be flushed out by putting a layer of water into the tank.
This allows the oil to float up to a level where it can be removed by a suction pipe. Where the
extracted residues, including any water put into the tank are to be disposed of, these should
be safely stored in suitable containers which are appropriate for transportation and labelled
appropriately. Refer to the Transportation and Waste Management sections of this
guidance for further information on environmental legislation and registrations/licences which
apply to this type of work.
Where the oil is to be re-used, e.g. distressed tank replacement, the oil should be stored in
clean containers that are able to hold the oil without being damaged. It is important that any
oil that will be put back in a new tank is kept free of contamination such as water or
chemicals.
Before a tank is cleaned, purged, dismantled or transported, it is important that all oil and
liquid residues are removed.

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Cleaning
Cleaning is the removal of solid and liquid residues from an oil storage tank. Tanks that will
need hot work, for dismantling purposes, will need to be cleaned and purged before hot work
starts. Refer to the Purging and Dismantling sections of this guidance for further
information.
Tanks can also be cleaned as part of a tank maintenance schedule to promote good tank
husbandry or where water contamination or bacterial growth is suspected. Cleaning may
also be necessary where the tank is to be re-used for storing a different class of oil in order
to prevent cross-contamination.
When performing any cleaning process, detergents should be selected that are compatible
with the tank material and are able to provide effective removal of the residue. Provision
must be made so that no liquids are lost to the environment during the cleaning process.
Liquids or waste resulting from the cleaning process should be treated as hazardous or
special waste. Refer to the Transportation and Waste Management sections of this
guidance for information on environmental legislation and registrations/licences which apply.
Suitable cleaning methods are:

Water washing

This process typically involves using a small jet washer to spray a high-pressure jet of hot
detergent solution onto all internal surfaces of a tank. During the process, residues should
continuously be removed from the tank and appropriately contained.

Steam cleaning

Steam cleaning should be done with extreme caution, especially when a tank has previously
contained kerosene or where tank cleaning is to be performed on domestic premises. Advice
should also be taken from the tank manufacturer to check if the tank material structure is
likely to be altered when coming into contact with steam.
Steam cleaning involves passing pressurised dry steam freely into a tank. The internal
surfaces of the tank should rise in temperature sufficiently to encourage removal of the
residues. As the steam condenses, residues are flushed to the bottom where they can be
removed into appropriate containers.
It is important to make sure that thermal expansion of the tank, from the steam, does not put
any undue stress on fixed pipework or fittings connected to the tank and that a vacuum is not
created once the tank cools as this could cause the tank to implode. Therefore, it is
important that access hatches are left open after steam cleaning has been completed to
prevent a vacuum forming.
After cleaning, a thorough internal inspection of the tank should be carried out to ensure that
all solid and liquid matter has been removed before the cleaning process can be considered
complete. Where the tank has limited openings, mirrors and torches can be used but it is
essential that any lighting and electrical equipment used inside the tank is intrinsically safe
and designed for use in flammable atmospheres.
The HSE publication CS 15 provides guidance on suitable methods of cleaning a tank
containing flammable residues and is available from the HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk.

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Purging
Purging is the removal of flammable gases or vapours from the immediate atmosphere
inside an oil storage tank. Purging must be completed prior to entering a tank and before hot
work is started.
For hot work to take place, the atmosphere inside a tank must have a Lower Flammable
Limit (LFL) of 1% or less.
Vapour dispersion
During the purging process, arrangements should be made to control the dispersion of
flammable vapour being expelled from a tank. Good ventilation is important and wherever
practicable, the work should be performed in open air and remote from large buildings,
structures and people. Consideration should be given to the avoidance of low lying areas
with features such as open drains and sewers. Where large volumes of vapour may be
released, the surrounding area should be monitored to indicate any build up of vapour.
Warning signs must be appropriately placed on the tank and a safety zone established whilst
work is in progress (see example below).

Flammable Vapour

No smoking or
naked lights
The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) apply where
flammable gases are present. These regulations mean technicians must protect people,
including the public, whose safety may be put at risk from fires or explosions which could
occur. Guidance on technicians responsibilities under DSEAR should be taken from the
HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk.
Gas-freeing
The gas-freeing of tanks is commonly carried out in conjunction with cleaning, but it must not
be assumed that because a tank has been cleaned, it will be gas-free. To confirm that a tank
is gas-free, the atmosphere inside the tank must be monitored at different points throughout
the tank during the entire process using a UKAS certified, calibrated combustible gas
detector. Where the atmosphere inside a tank is found to be within limits, a gas-free
certificate can be issued and the tank should be marked accordingly. A gas-free certificate is
only valid for a 24 hour period. If this period of time is exceeded, a tank cannot be assumed
to be gas-free and the purging process should be performed again.
The HSE publication CS 15 provides further guidance on methods of gas-freeing a tank
containing flammable residues and is available from the HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk.

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Inerting
Where it is impracticable to clean and gas-free a tank, inerting can be considered to
prepare a tank for hot work. This involves reducing oxygen levels within a tank to the point
where combustion is not supported.
Inerting can be achieved by passing inert gas, such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide freely into
a tank. Where an inert gas is used, care must be taken to make sure that the gas is
uniformly mixed within the tank by monitoring the flammable vapour concentration
throughout the tank using a UKAS certified, calibrated combustible gas detector.
Where the atmosphere inside a tank is found to be within limits, a gas-free certificate can be
issued and the tank should be marked accordingly. A gas-free certificate is only valid for a
24 hour period. If this period of time is exceeded, a tank cannot be assumed to be gas-free
and the inerting process should be performed again.
The HSE publication CS 15 provides guidance on methods of inerting a tank containing
flammable residues and is available from the HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk.

Dismantling
It is normally advantageous for an oil storage tank to be removed from site to a more
environmentally secure location before any dismantling works are started. Where hazardous
or special waste is moved to other premises, refer to the Transportation section of this
guidance for information on environmental legislation and registrations/licences which apply.
If removal is not practical due to access restraints, a tank could be dismantled on site using
cold cutting methods such as the use of hydraulic shears or cutters and pneumatic chisels.
This is to avoid the risks associated with hot work.
Hot work
This involves dismantling a tank using equipment which can generate flames, sparks or
heat, such as oxygen/acetylene torches, flame cutters or disc cutters.
Before starting hot work, it is important that a tank is isolated, emptied and successfully
cleaned and certified gas-free. Refer to the previous sections of this guidance. Technicians
who carry out hot work should be appropriately insured and they must be accompanied at all
times by a colleague who stands on Fire Watch with appropriate fire safety equipment to
hand.
The heat generated during hot work can vaporise residues. The presence of flammable
vapour should be monitored throughout the tank using a UKAS certified, calibrated
combustible gas detector.
HSE publication Hot work on small tanks and drums provides further guidance on tank
dismantling and is available from the HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk.

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Transportation
All oil wastes containing a mineral element are classified as hazardous waste in England,
Northern Ireland and Wales, and as special waste in Scotland. Decommissioned oil storage
tanks, pipework, filters, etc, which have been in contact with such oil are likely to be
classified as hazardous or special waste. Under waste management legislation, technicians
who transport these wastes on UK highways must register as an upper tier waste carrier with
the environment agency responsible for the location where their principal place of business
is. These environment agencies are:

England and Wales - Environment Agency


Northern Ireland - Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)
Scotland - Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Options for business or individual registration are available and submissions to register or
renew as a registered waste carrier can be completed online in some UK countries. Please
see the waste carriers and brokers pages of the following environment agency websites:

Environment Agency - www.environment-agency.gov.uk


NIEA - www.doeni.gov.uk
SEPA - www.sepa.org.uk

Registered waste carriers are permitted to perform waste carrying activities throughout
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but a cross-border consignment note may
be required where waste is transferred between jurisdictions. Further information on this is
available from the aforementioned environment agencies. Technicians should also be aware
that the length and cost of registrations may vary between issuing environment agencies.
If hazardous or special waste is transported on UK highways, carriers must comply with
controls on the carriage of dangerous goods, details of which can be found on the HSE
website, www.hse.gov.uk.
Waste consignment note
Before hazardous or special waste is removed from premises, technicians have a legal duty
of care under waste management legislation to make sure a completed consignment note
accompanies all transported hazardous or special waste.
A consignment note has multiple pages so that a copy can be retained by all parties involved
with the transfer of waste, these being:

The producer/holder/consignor (whom the waste is being collected from);


The carrier (whom transports the waste); and
The consignee (whom receives the transported waste).

A sample of a waste consignment note, including necessary criteria to be completed and by


whom, can be obtained via the environment agency websites. It is important that
consignment notes are kept for a minimum time period by all parties involved with the
movement of waste. Refer to the environment agency websites for further guidance.

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Before hazardous or special waste is transferred in Northern Ireland and Scotland,


technicians must notify their environment agency (NIEA or SEPA) of waste movement or the
first movement in a series from the same producer at least 72 hours before the expected
transfer date.
All waste should be transferred to the consignee as quickly as possible.

Waste Management
Good practice waste management includes the removal and management of any waste
generated during decommissioning work as part of the contract of work.
Where a decommissioned oil storage tank is to remain on site, even temporarily, all oil and
liquid residues should be removed and the oil supply pipe should be disconnected. The oil
supply pipe and all tank connections should be capped. Where a tank is disconnected from
an extended fill pipe, both ends of the fill pipe should be capped.
To prevent the delivery of oil in error to a decommissioned tank, such tanks and any
associated extended fill pipework should have a warning label affixed stating Do Not Fill,
e.g. utilising an OFTEC Warning Sticker. Stickers should be located in a prominent location
adjacent to any fill connections.
To minimise fire risk, decommissioned tanks remaining on site should be filled with
hydrophobic foam or water and the building insurance providers should also be notified.
Waste management hierarchy
The waste management hierarchy encourages those involved with the transfer of waste to
consider more environmentally friendly ways of managing it, other than disposal.
The hierarchy sets out, in order of priority, the waste management options that should be
considered:

Most Preferable

Least Preferable

Prevention
.

Re-use

Recycling

Other recovery

Disposal

When hazardous waste is transferred in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, a declaration
must be made on the waste consignment note that the waste management hierarchy has
been considered and applied in priority order. To help reduce waste, the waste management
hierarchy should also be applied in Scotland.
Further information on the waste management hierarchy can be found on the environment
agency websites or via the government on-line business and support services.

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Re-use of waste
A means of satisfying the waste management hierarchy would be, wherever possible, to reuse or recycle waste materials.
Where a quantity of contamination free oil is to be removed from site, consideration should
be given to it being sold on as clean fuel for re-use in other equipment via a company who is
a Registered Dealer in Controlled Oils (RDCO) as certified by HM Revenue and Customs.
Where an oil tank is to be disposed of, consideration should be given to recycling the
material. Both steel and plastic tanks can be recycled where facilities exist. Arrangements
can also be made with licenced waste management companies who can collect and recycle
such waste.
Removal of waste
All oil wastes containing a mineral element are classified as hazardous waste in England,
Wales and Northern Ireland and as special waste in Scotland. Decommissioned oil storage
tanks, pipework, filters, etc, which have been in contact with such oil are likely to be
classified as hazardous or special waste. These wastes must be disposed of appropriately at
licenced waste sites. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, a fragmentation certificate will
be issued to confirm that the waste has been disposed of appropriately. Refer to the
Transportation section of this guidance for information on environmental
registrations/licences that are required to transport these wastes.
There is an on-line search tool to help find licenced waste facilities in England, Northern
Ireland, Scotland and Wales on the government on-line advice and support service websites.
Where the removal of waste is to be arranged by a domestic customer, technicians should
stress the importance of safe and appropriate disposal. Appropriate means of disposal
include contracting the services of a licenced waste management contractor or identifying
through their local council the nearest appropriately licenced waste site that will accept
hazardous or special waste.

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